On Wednesday (Dec. 20), the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) dismissed election misconduct allegations against Democrat Registrar Matthew Waggner during Fairfield’s 2022 election.
Fairfield resident and former 2022 Republican state representative candidate Meghan McCloat lodged the complaint with the SEEC presenting seven allegations: omitting polling locations on the town map delineating updated State Assembly lines; improperly changing the absentee ballot location without proper notice; incorrect ballot counts; missing tally sheets; an unauthorized recount of ballots; failure to impound election material; improper photocopying of ballots; and signing a moderator’s return with inaccurate information.
The commission discussed the issue in a closed-door executive session before the public session commenced. During the public portion, a little over two minutes were devoted to the matter, with the SEEC stating that they “believe that there is insufficient evidence at this time to support the alleged violations.”
No questions or comments were entertained, and the complaint was dismissed with no opposition or abstentions without “prejudice against the respondents.” Meanwhile, due to the prior private discussions, the SEEC’s rationale to dismiss the allegations remains unknown. While it is plausible that Waggner — who has been in office since 2009 — did not violate any statutes, his actions leading up to and on election day raise concern.
Under his watch, the normal procedures of recording security tag numbers on ballot bags were not properly enforced, leading to lost ballots. During the 2022 election, at the Mill Hill School polling location, the moderator reported that 123 ballots were unreadable by tabulators. At Waggner’s request, they were sent to the town hall; however, three ballots went missing in between locations — and there is still no explanation as to where they went.
Additionally, tally sheets disappeared after Waggner assumed control of them, along with ballots, notes and other election-related materials, taking them to an office that was accessible by multiple individuals. According to the complaint, these materials were left unsecured from November 8-14.
During the distribution of ballots, the Osborn Hill polling location received only 200 out of the expected 400. Without explanation, Waggner photocopied ballots to make up for the shortage despite excess ballots from other locations. Ultimately, this move forced a hand count at Osborn Hill.
On Nov. 9, 2022, the Secretary of the State’s (SOTS) office ordered a recount in the 134th district (Fairfield and Trumbull) where McCloat was on the ballot. The recount was triggered by McCloat’s 27-vote lead over her Democratic opponent, Sarah Keitt.
According to the Recanvass Procedure Manual, the municipal clerk must impound all election materials for recanvasing. However, Waggner — who had already commandeered most of these items without notifying the Republican registrar — took it upon himself to conduct the recount with head moderator Linda Robak after business hours. Video footage submitted with the complaint confirmed Waggner and Robak’s presence during that time.
Ultimately, McCloat was defeated by a margin of 14 votes.
These types of accusations are not new for Waggner, and history shows that this is not the first instance where such charges failed to stick.
Additional complications arose in 2022 following complaints that Waggner was deleting voting location items from the Fairfield registrar of voter’s website and that he was working unsupervised on voting tabulators on a weekend. In response, then-First Selectman Brenda Kupchick was forced to change the locks to the facility where the machines were located.
The SOTS ruled that Kupchick was not in compliance with state law and suggested that the city store the voting equipment behind a dual lock system accessible by two unique keys possessed by both party registrars.
Furthermore, in the months preceding the 2023 election, Fairfield Town Attorney James Baldwin requested help from the SOTS office because Waggner’s “misconduct, willful and material neglect of duty and incompetence” threatened the integrity of the 2023 municipal elections.
According to Baldwin, Waggner violated state record-retention laws by destroying documents and impeding access to the state’s voter database. Additionally, a human resource complaint was filed against him, asserting that Waggner engaged in bullying and intimidation toward staff members.
If the allegations against Waggner weren’t enough, similar issues extend beyond Fairfield, as recent reports of absentee ballot fraud in the neighboring city of Bridgeport emerged in September. This raises broader concerns about election integrity across the state. During the special session on Sep. 26, Sen. Herron Keyon Gaston (D-Bridgeport) publicly stated that the “issue that we’re having right now that we see out of Bridgeport is not just happening in Bridgeport it’s happening across many towns and many of our municipalities.”
As Fairfield prepares for the 2024 elections, election officials must do their job to ensure the security and transparency of the election process to prevent the further erosion of public trust and voter disenfranchisement. The onus lies on them to restore confidence and uphold integrity in the electoral process.
This week on Yankee’s podcast Y CT Matters
Christmas has long been associated with Connecticut in cinema (particularly with the 1945 film, Christmas in Connecticut). But the recent Hallmark movie boom has solidified the connection as multiple films by the studio have been shot in the state. Tricia Ennis, an investigative reporter for Connecticut Inside Investigator (CII) and a movie buff, shares insights into Hallmark’s filmmaking in the Constitution State…and discusses her holiday favorites! Learn more here.
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